Caring for our Veterans

By Alex Burum

My Story

This Veteran’s Day, we remember, and thank all of our veterans who have served and sacrificed for our freedom.  In 2012 my father, Jeff Burum, United States Air Force, Retired Major, and disabled veteran, discovered his Desert Storm had never ended after being deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1993.  Years after his deployment, he began battling the effects of the Southwest Asia Theater of War’s toxic environment in the form of Gulf War Illness-an invisible enemy consisting of; chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, traumatic brain injury, autoimmune dysfunction, spondynosis, adrenal insufficiency, irritable bowel syndrome to name a few, which had devastating medical, effects on his life. I graduated with my Masters in chemistry and shortly after assumed a full time care-giving role in 2013 when I had to move clear across the country from Miami, FL to Oxnard, CA to care for my father who had finally been diagnosed with presumptive Gulf War Illness symptoms.  As a non-spouse, pre 9/11 caregiver, this meant providing care 24 hrs per day without any aid.

In the beginning and even now, I struggled through countless hours trying to navigate an overly complicated maze of Tricare, the VA, the War Related Illness Center, Social Security Medicare medical services and claims processes. Many advocates didn’t know of resources to help military and veteran caregivers, and I faced barriers with the limited resources for pre-9/11 and male-child caregivers, who give up their careers early in life to serve our needing veterans. It took constant resilience and perseverance to find formal caregiver assistance and training that I needed to assist my father.  But he is one of many suffering from Gulf War Illness, which has affected approximately ⅓ of the 2.4 million veterans who have served or are serving in this theater of war.  This invisible enemy has required care-givers such as myself to change the direction of my life and serve those who have served our country.

With the assistance of the Palo Alto War Related Illness Center, the Holtorf Medical Center, and other private doctors, as well as a network of caregivers and other disabled veterans, we have made tremendous progress with his pain management and combating the negative effects this has on his life.  So much in fact, he is now a Congressional Candidate in the 26th District of CA, here to give hope and a pathway to a plethora of veterans that our current representatives have neglected.

As an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, I am here to spread hope and awareness to an estimated 2.1M people currently affected by Gulf War Illness, as well as those who will be affected in the future.  Our nation’s veterans were promised care for the injuries and illnesses they would endure from their service, it’s our time to aid them in any manner we can.

About the Foundation

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is the preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers; the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who care for America’s wounded, ill, or injured veterans. Founded by Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2012, the Foundation adopts a comprehensive approach in its advocacy, working with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit, labor and faith communities to recognize military caregivers’ service and promote their well-being.

A major campaign of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Hidden Heroes is a multi-year, multi-faceted campaign that brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and seeks solutions for the tremendous challenges and long-term needs they face.

Hidden Heroes Initiative

Hidden Heroes seeks to:

  1. Raise awareness of the issues military caregivers confront every day.
  2. Inspire individuals, businesses, communities, and civic, faith and government leaders to take action in supporting military caregivers in their communities.
  3. Establish a national registry, encouraging military caregivers to register at to better connect them to helpful resources and support. is the premier online destination for military caregivers. This first-of-its-kind website includes testimonials from military caregivers who share their personal stories; a vetted directory of valuable resources; the opportunity to join a private Facebook community for military caregivers; and calls-to-action for communities and individuals to get involved.

More information can be found at:

This is my story.  I would be happy to hear from veterans, care-givers, and family members, to share their stories and help in any way I can.

Alex Burum

805 775 0504


Alex Burum is 31, a caregiver to a cold war/gulf war vet, veteran advocate, has a masters in organic chemistry and quantum mechanics, taught at grad/undergrad level and worked at Argonne National Lab, now living in Oxnard.

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